MLB Adds Second Wild Card: How This Came One Year Too Late for the Phillies

February 29, 2012 by Mark Swindell  
Filed under Fan News

When the Phillies swept the Atlanta Braves to finish off the 2011 regular season, it eliminated the Braves from the postseason and opened the door for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Of course the Cards ended up defeating the Phillies in five games in the NLDS, the Milwaukee Brewers in six games in the NLCS and then the Texas Rangers in seven games to win the World Series.

Major League Baseball is expected to announce they will be adding a second Wild Card playoff team to each league.  This will definitely help out teams in the American League East, who year after year go up against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Before this change, teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles were practically done before it started.  It was the same for the Tampa Bay Rays for years until all of their top minor league talent developed and they bumped off the Yankees in 2008 and the Red Sox in 2011.

Still, life has been made easier for small-to-mid-market teams looking for a chance to play in the postseason.

Now back to 2011 and the heartbreak of the Phillies.  If this announcement was made in February of 2011, the Phillies more than likely would have had their second parade down Broad Street in four years and here's how:

The Phillies still would have had the No. 1 seed in the NL, with the Brewers No. 2 and the Diamondbacks claiming No. 3.  However, instead of the Cardinals travelling to Philadelphia for the NLDS, they would have had to play a one-game playoff versus the Braves in St. Louis.

The Braves could have tossed a fresh Tim Hudson while another fresh starter, Brandon Beachy, would have been available out of the pen against the Cards, who would have thrown Chris Carpenter.  Carpenter, as you recall, pitched the final game of the season and shut out the Houston Astros.

There is no way Tony LaRussa would have used Carpenter in that finale vs. the Houston Astros since it would have been meaningless under the format announced today.  Instead, both teams would have played a meaningless game No. 162 and rested their regulars and bullpen arms for the one-game playoff.

It would have been the Braves (Hudson) in St. Louis (Carpenter).  Both aces would have been used up for the short five-game series vs. the Phillies.

More than likely, the Phillies would have easily moved on, as they were dominant against the Braves the entire season, and LaRussa would have only been able to toss Carpenter once, probably in Game 3.

Yes, I know the Phillies knocked Carpenter around in Game 2 last year, but it was Carpenter and Carpenter alone who enabled the Cardinals to defeat the Phillies in that 1-0 shutout in Game 5.

So, the addition of another wild card team to the MLB playoff field came one season too late for last year's franchise-record 102-win Philadelphia Phillies.  Let's see if things play out more in their favor in 2012.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Offense Overcomes Slow Start in 6-1 Exhibition Win

February 29, 2012 by kevin mcguire  
Filed under Fan News

Hector Luna's two-run home run in the seventh inning helped the Phillies pull away from Florida State in Wednesday's spring exhibition in Clearwater. The Phillies defeated one the NCAA's top baseball teams by the score of 6-1 after being held scoreless by the Seminoles' pitching through five innings.

Tyson Gillies scored the first run of the game when Scott Podsednik's infield single in the sixth inning gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead. The lead would be short-lived when J.C. Ramirez ran in to some trouble in the top of the seventh inning and Florida State scored their first run. Some poor control, including a wild pitch, was the story of the inning for Ramirez, but one run was all he allowed. Pete Orr, who bobbled a grounder to allow Florida State to make some noise, scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning to make amends. The Phillies continued to tack on some runs, benefiting from a balk against Florida State to force in a run before Luna's blast over the wall.

 

Other Notes From Exhibition Win

Starting pitcher Austin Hyatt pitched two innings and did not allow a base runner. Hyatt started the game with a pair of strikeouts, and never appeared to struggle too much with command in two effective innings.

Ty Wigginton grounded in to a double play in his first at-bat of the spring, after Hunter Pence had walked on four pitches.

Domonic Brown was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance, and he followed by stealing second base.

First hit of the spring for the Phillies went to catcher Tuffy Gosewisch. His one-out double off the wall in the third inning was followed by a walk by Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies were unable to capitalize, though, with Juan Pierre popping up and Shane Victorino flying out to left to end the inning.

Despite already having the game in the bag, the Phillies opted to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Florida State pitcher Brandon Johnson a chance to pitch as well.

A total of 4,399 were reported in the attendance.

 

Next Up

The Phillies will open their Grapefruit League schedule this weekend with a three-game series against the New York Yankees. Cole Hamels will get the first start of the season Saturday afternoon. Dave Bush, Jonathan Papelbon, Dontrelle Willis, Raul Valdes, Chad Qualls and Mike Stutes are scheduled to pitch after Hamels gets in a couple of innings of work.

Roy Halladay will make his spring debut on Sunday when the Phillies make the short trip to play the Yankees. Joel Pineiro, David Purcey, Antonio Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont are scheduled to pitch in the game.

Both games are scheduled for 1:05 p.m. first pitches.

 

Kevin McGuire is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle. This article was originally published and appears on Macho Row.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why Cole Hamels Will Lead Them in Wins in 2012

February 29, 2012 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

Cole Hamels has become a rock star in the city of Philadelphia. Not only is he one of the 10 best pitchers in MLB, but he helped end a 25-year championship drought for the most passionate sports fans in America.

Hamels agreed to a one-year contract (avoiding arbitration) worth $15 million, but that has hardly set the minds of Phillies Nation at ease. Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and of course the New York Yankees are salivating at the thought of Hamels entering free agency.

Hamels is only 28 and has a pedigree at this point in his career that has been matched by few. The Phillies have built their Vegas favorite ballclub around their pitching, and they must keep their youngest and brightest star at all costs.

Hamels made it crystal clear in his spring training press conference that he loves it in Philadelphia and he wishes to stay. His family lives here, his foundation is here and he loves the fans. It's been amazing to watch King Cole improve right before our very eyes, and you can be assured that he is poised for a monster year.

Here are five reasons why Cole Hamels will lead the Philadelphia Phillies in wins in 2012.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

25 Philadelphia Phillies We Wish We Could Still Watch Today

February 29, 2012 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

It's not a bad time to be a Philadelphia Phillies fan.

You've seen five straight National League East titles, three trips to the National League Championship Series, two trips to the World Series and one victory in the Fall Classic, all in the last five seasons.

You've seen some of the Phillies' all-time greats, like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, build their careers right before your eyes.

In fact, the greatest Phillie of all-time, Mike Schmidt, who played on a couple of excellent teams, believes this is the greatest era of Phillies baseball.

"The environment around Phillies baseball right now, I don't see how it could have ever been better. A full stadium every night, sold out. The pitching staff they have right now is maybe one of the greatest ever in the history of the sport. A team full of potential All-Star players—almost all of them have been All-Stars at one point," Schmidt said. (David Hale of The News Journal.)

But all of us who have ever strolled through Citizens Bank Park and took the time to walk through Memory Lane and take a gander at the Phillies' Wall of Fame know that we missed a lot of great baseball before our time.

We missed Pete Alexander win his league-leading 33rd game back in 1916. In 1899, none of us witnessed Ed Delahanty hit .410. When Chuck Klein won the MVP award in 1932, none of us saw it. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

We've seen a lot of great baseball, but we've missed so much more. Which players do you wish you were alive to see in their prime?

For news, rumors, analysis and game recaps during spring training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Ranking the 10 Most Valuable Phillies in 2012

February 25, 2012 by Kyle Yahn  
Filed under Fan News

In 2012, the Philadelphia Phillies are a known commodity.

Sans a few bullpen arms and the possible emergence of Domonic Brown in the outfield, you've seen the type of play to expect from the core players of this Phillies squad. 

The starting pitching is going to be excellent, spearheaded by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

The offense is going to be inconsistent, but sufficient enough to win a lot of ballgames. 

The defense is going to be rock solid, as always.

And with the considerable age of this roster, the injury bug is going to be hard at work all season long. 

Ruben Amaro has constructed a group of guys that gel together perfectly, and balance each others strengths and weaknesses excellently. So, what happens if one of those guys, for whatever reason, is pulled from the mix? Certainly the bevy of bench depth helps this problem, but you can't expect Michael Martinez to fill in for Chase Utley as if he had never left. 

There are a few players on this Phillies team that truly carry them to the degree of success that they have achieved in recent seasons. They are the most valuable pieces to the puzzle of success in Philadelphia. 

This list will view who is most valuable based on how easily they could be filled in for if need be, and how capably their contributions could be replaced by another player on the roster. 

The question then arises—who is going to be the most valuable player to the Phillies in 2012?

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Spring Training 2012: Phillies’ Vance Worley Changing Things Up

February 25, 2012 by Joe Redden  
Filed under Fan News

I have to admit it. I'm in the bag for Vance Worley.

I can't help it. Anytime someone comes in unheralded by ESPN and the rest of the "experts" and succeeds, I love it. And it doesn't hurt that he plays for the only team in MLB I care about. But that's beside the point.

That was 2011 and we are now about to roll into the start of the 2012 season. The "experts" are at it again, telling us Worley is due for a regression. They are making comparisons to former Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ and how he was rocked his second season after a good first year.

Fair enough. Would the Worley of 2011 be as successful in 2012? Probably not. Hitters adjust and learn what your pitches look like. The difference between Happ and Worley is how they adjust to these kinds of changes.

After the 2009 season, Happ couldn't have been higher. Having received awards like the Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher Award, TYIB Rookie of the Year and Players Choice Outstanding Rookie of the Year, he was on top of the world. In his mind, he was a dominant pitcher who would continue his dominance for years to come.

But he should have learned from Cole Hamels that success doesn't carry over. And if you want to continue to be dominant, things have to change. This was not a reality he accepted, and as such, he now pitches for the lowly Houston Astros and has an ERA over 5.00.

Spring training hasn't even started yet and Worley is already mixing things up, even though he finished second in MLB behind Bartolo Colon with over half of his strikeouts coming with the hitters watching the ball go by. His sinker just had hitters confounded. They couldn't figure why the ball seemed to be coming right at their hip, and then cut right back across the plate for strike three.

But 162 games is a very long time. And Major League hitters are quick to adapt to anything, including that sinker when they had two strikes. Toward the end of the season, it became apparent that the hitter knew what was coming. 

That being said, quite a few still missed it when they tried, but not nearly enough to continue always going to that pitch in that situation. So coming into this season, Worley and Brian Schneider, by all rights his personal catcher, worked on a game plan of how they were going to use the sinker.

Here's Schneider in an interview with Matt Gelb of The Inquirer:

"We can throw it earlier in the count and not just wait for two strikes," Schneider said. "At the end of the year, we started setting the pitch up more by throwing one or two pitches away. Or maybe instead of throwing the sinker in there, we'd throw a four-seamer or a cutter in there and get them thinking."

As you can see, Worley has an array of pitches he can throw at hitters, with the sinker, rightly so, being the most preferred. He's also not afraid to borrow from the "aces." Last year he began experimenting with Hamels' cutter grip, and now he's using it consistently for his cutter. Also, at the recommendation of Roy Halladay, he is now using a split-change grip for his changeup. If he could develop that pitch into anything close to what Halladay throws, it would be pretty nasty.

Add to that his already proficient curveball, and you've got yourself some devastating options for hitters to guess at. When they see that ball coming inside, do they think sinker and get ready to swing as it cuts across the plate only to watch the floor drop out of a split-change and whiff at air? Or how about when he's been force feeding them sinkers and changeups all day and then decides to throw a rising heater on the outside?  

That's the thing about Worley—he doesn't just have one or two pitches. With two fastballs, a nasty sinker, progressing curveball,and a new changeup courtesy of the Ace of Aces, he could be truly great in 2012. It won't hurt that he will be at spring training and get to learn from a collection of the greatest pitchers in the game right now. There are no bad habits for him to learn with the Phillies, especially their pitching staff.  

He will continue to keep to the things that make him the "Vanimal." He'll keep that creepy smile when he releases the ball, the wild hair, those glasses and the determination and fitness to move at a pace that makes batters want to step out to catch a breather. But whether it's Hamels' cutter grip, Halladay's split-change or even Lee's proficiency with the bat, having the Three Aces as your tutor is like a dream come true.

"He absolutely has the stuff," Schneider said. "There's no doubt about it."

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Spring Training: Is Roy Oswalt Waiting on the Phillies to Trade Joe Blanton?

February 24, 2012 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

There's been a running joke this season that involves Roy Oswalt being comfortable sitting on his tractor at home in Weir, Mississippi, laughing at a handful of teams who think they can buy him away from happiness, but that's not true.

Anyone that truly knows Oswalt, who has listened to him talk and watched him compete, knows firsthand that he won't be happy on that tractor until there is a giant World Series ring on his finger to catch that Mississippi sunshine.

For that reason alone, it certainly wasn't surprising to see Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, reiterate his client's intention to pitch in 2012—but on his terms. Oswalt, an 11-year MLB veteran, has often been painted as the type of man who wouldn't mind spending more time at home with his family, but the sheer competitor that resides within just won't let that happen.

"After much thought and careful consideration, Roy [Oswalt] has decided to continue to evaluate his options. He is in great health and will continue to stay in shape, while throwing regularly off the mound. Roy has every intention of pitching for a contending club at some point this season," said Garber in a statement, passed along by FoxSports.com.

That simple statement has the baseball world jumping to conclusions. Will Oswalt follow a plan established by Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez in the past, jumping on to a club's roster around midseason to help push for a World Series title?

With his rumored interest being in just the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies, that is a strong possibility.

Both St. Louis and Texas are just a hop, skip and a jump away from Oswalt's home in Weir, Mississippi, and in Philadelphia, Oswalt knows the roster and what it's capable of. All three are very capable contenders for a World Series in 2012.

 

So why haven't any of them landed Oswalt yet? Well, money is an issue, but the bigger issue remains the fact that none of those three teams are in terrible need of a starting pitcher.

The Cardinals are set with Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter at the top of their rotation and plenty of depth. The Rangers have even more depth, and they spent more than $100 million this winter in pursuit of Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. The Phillies have three aces, a Rookie of the Year finalist from 2011 and a Joe Blanton.

Of those three teams, all have very capable starting rotations from the first slot to the fifth. By waiting until midseason, Oswalt hopes to land with one of these clubs in pursuit of a World Series after an injury, but will that be necessary?

The Cardinals have top prospect Shelby Miller waiting in the wings. The Rangers' rotation is arguably seven men deep. Even the Phillies have a number of veteran options in Kyle Kendrick, Dave Bush and Joel Pineiro, among others.

Will these teams have room for Oswalt, even in the event of an injury? Well, that's where the conspiracy theory kicks in.

Okay, so it's not so much of a conspiracy theory as a possible, behind-the-scenes explanation for what's going on. The Phillies are one of the few teams that have not closed the door on an Oswalt return. Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak has publicly stated that Oswalt will "not be pitching for the Cardinals." (h/t: Joe Strauss)

Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels told reporters, including Evan Grant of MLB.com, that his club has no intention of signing Oswalt.

In fact, Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been the only member of that group to express interest in Oswalt, but continually expresses concern about the budget. That would lead one to believe that should the Phillies be able to free up some space under the luxury tax, they would be interested in bringing Oswalt back aboard.

Enter Joe Blanton.

The Phillies are not happy with the back end of their rotation, so much so that they were willing to take a shot on troubled New York Yankees' starter A.J. Burnett before they shipped him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies were interested in a three-team deal that would have sent Blanton to the Los Angeles Angels, Burnett to Philadelphia and Bobby Abreu to the Yankees.

It was never finished, and the logical explanation is that teams are wary of Blanton's health.

So the question remains: What happens if Blanton shows teams during the spring that improved conditioning and a healthy arm have him looking like a very capable, back-end-of-the-rotation starting pitcher?

Surely, at that point, plenty of teams would be willing to be pay half of Blanton's salary. Truth be told, having Blanton on your club for about $5 million is not a bad deal, but the Phillies are looking for upside. The Phillies' are looking for Oswalt.

So, if the conspiracy theorist in you is still following along, could the Phillies and Oswalt have some sort of gentleman's agreement in place? Will Oswalt stay on the market until the Phillies are able to find a taker for Blanton's salary?

After all, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has spoken to a source that said Oswalt would be "very interested" in returning to Philadelphia.

So buckle your seat belts folks. The Roy Oswalt Roller Coaster is merely climbing a hill before it dives into a free fall once again. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that Amaro has taken the fans on a ride, and until Oswalt gets that big, shiny World Series ring, this thing is far from over.

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Philadelphia Phillies: 25 Most Heartbreaking Losses in Franchise History

February 24, 2012 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

"You can't win 'em all."

Baseball fans don't need beaten cliches to face reality. During the course of a 162-game regular season, even the greatest of teams are going to get unlucky once in a while. The most technically sound teams are going to make a few mistakes.

It happens. Baseball must obey those pesky mathematics and probability laws.

So what makes fans so angry when someone says something as simple as, "You can't win them all?" That's not a comforting statement. At its core, it basically means that from time to time, you're going to lose.

Nobody likes losing!

Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies can multiply that statement 10,000 times. Saddled with a number of obstacles blocking their path to a winning franchise for a long time, the Phillies collected a number of losses, some more painful than others.

Even as one of the best teams in baseball in recent seasons, the Phillies have experienced a number of painful losses. That's the beauty of this game: It always keeps you humble.

So as yet another baseball season waits just around the corner and the Phillies attempt yet another run at a World Series title, let's prepare ourselves for the bumps along the way. Let's take a look at some of the most painful losses in franchise history, to understand just what the Phillies are fighting for in 2012.

For news, rumors, analysis, and game recaps during Spring Training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Predicting Leader in Every Major Statistical Category

February 24, 2012 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

If the arrival of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training in Clearwater, Florida doesn't get you excited, then maybe Roy Halladay arriving in a 1932 Roadster will. Phillies Nation will instinctively flock south in a few weeks to watch the five-time defending NL East champions.

Over 3.1 million tickets have already been sold for the 2012 season, including 70,000 single-game tickets which were sold on February 17, 2012 (the first day single games were available) at Citizens Bank Park. While there are many questions that we will look to have answered before Opening Day, there is no question that the Phillies still are the favorites in the National League.

After all, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels (Nos. 1, 2, 3) are as good as it gets. Philadelphia, enjoy the ride of a 162-game season. Let's try to not look ahead to the postseason.

We will worry about the postseason later, so here is a prediction of the Philadelphia Phillies leaders in every major statistical category.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training Preview: A Look at the New Guys, Part 2

February 24, 2012 by Joe Redden  
Filed under Fan News

**** This is Part Two of a two-part series.  This edition covers the pitchers.  Part One covered the hitters/fielders. ****

 

The Phillies went out and not only worked to improve their bench with old and new faces.  With upgrades like Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton, the days of seeing Ross Gload and Wilson Valdez under-perform are long gone.  However, they also improved the bullpen.  The jury remains out on whether all the decisions made were the right ones, but let's see what arms they got for their money.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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